hi friends! i forgot to update my link to my new(er) blog, in case this is how you access it. the wordpress blog i now use is located at alexroem.wordpress.com
one of the reasons i love the northwest so much is the fact that people here are so into handmaking and homemaking things. whether its a blackberry pie, a lavender soap or some felt owls, people in portland especially appreciate the meaning of making things with your own hands. i went to a craft fair yesterday in portland with elena called crafty wonderland, and it certainly was inspiring to see all of the intricate and whimsical things people created. over 200 vendors was overwhelming but it was so awesome to see so many people there supporting local artisans; i even came across something called supportland, a rewards card system to earn points when you shop local. there were vendors there i recognized from searches of the portland area on etsy.com and i even purchased a few little gifts. its been an awesome way to meet people and share crafty tidbits, getting my creative juices flowing…
(Disclaimer: This post will be stream-of-consciousness and there will be no chronology whatsoever. Also, I wrote it yesterday but Tumblr would not allow me to post it. Probably because there was too much awesomeness in one post. Enjoy!)
So as I sit in my usual Hillsboro coffee shop and borrow their wifi wonderfulness (usually without purchasing a drink, but its okay because the baristas like me) I reflect on the homily I heard this morning at St. Matthew parish by Father Ron Raab of the Portland Downtown Chapel. Fr. Raab, a Holy Cross priest, is visiting St. Matthew’s to lead their Advent mission, using his book The Unsheltered Heart, an at home advent retreat. In his homily this morning, Fr. Raab challenged us all to examine our hearts in this time of preparation to see what is in need of healing and love in our lives. Its very easy to get wrapped up in the consumerism of the Christmas season but as I’ve come to spend holidays and months on end away from the family and friends I grew up with, I’ve realized the support and love that travel with me across the miles. I hope to spend the next few weeks leading up to Christmas really examining the relationships I have with housemates, family, friends and ultimately, myself. What mantras or ideas do I carry with me everyday to be the truest and best form of myself? How have my experiences and interactions with others changed the way I view the world, for better or worse?
Christie led a spirituality night this past week in the coziness of our living room, now adorned with our (locally grown!) Christmas tree, in which we were challenged to determine what we try to live out everyday, whether it be a simple phrase or a religious ideal. It provoked some good thoughts and conversation and it is something I hope to consciously consider each day during the Advent season and beyond..
Thanksgiving came and went, as did my apple pie! It was quite a hit at the HomePlate potluck, as were Elena’s turkey hats we made with the kids. Turkey parades ensued around the table for the rest of the evening. We ventured into Portland after dinner and stayed at the JV Mac house overnight to head to the holiday parade and tree lighting the next day to get in the holiday spirit. (See fantastic photos in previous posts.) Saturday was another evening of fun spent with my co-worker Meghan and her friend Rachel; we had delicious stirfry and holiday drinks and sang the night away with Lady Gaga rock band. Quite a swanky way to spend a Saturday evening for a JV!! We headed to feed horses Sunday morning at Forward Stride, a nonprofit that Meghan volunteers with for people with physical and mental disabilities to be able to ride horses as a part of their therapy. Though it was early, we had a great time being in the quiet barn passing out grain to the horses; we were very popular ladies, especially when we handed out apples. Sunday continued with a trip to a Portland craft bazaar with wonderful handmade things like jewelry, stationery, clothing and anything else you can imagine.. it made me very envious of people brimming with creativity and who own a sewing machine!
Green Team was busy this week and we made great progress with our schools and plantings. Deer Park is taking a two-month break so this past Tuesday was the last time I’ll see many of the students as they are transitioning to college (!!!) and back to their home schools. Deer Park is a group I have really come to love as I have worked with them every week since September and they are the smallest group of students I work with, so this allowed me to get to know them pretty well. I’ll miss them and their witty little remarks but I’m so happy they are all moving on and am looking forward to meeting new students in February. Some of the students read reflections on their SOLV experience and their remarks were very touching and it made me feel fantastic that they really got something out of the time we all spent together in community. Also worked with Mountain View Middle School this week at a planting; they rocked it and got nearly 100 plants in the ground in a little over an hour!
This weekend was another fantastic one as I worked with Help-Portrait, a global event started last year where photographers all around the world organize a one day event in their city and take portraits of people who might not otherwise have access to photography. I volunteered yesterday with a Portland group and we served 179 people, taking a total of 54 family portraits. The photographers and organizers were amazing to work with and we had a great time meeting families from all over the Portland area. Families received a CD of the all the photos taken of them as well as a 5x7 print of their choosing.. hoping to post a video/slideshow soon of candids taken by people over the course of the day! Can’t wait til next year! See photos from around the world on Help Portraits Flickr account…
Had a great night at St. Matthew’s last night (Sunday) with Youth Ministry as we were back after a Thanksgiving hiatus. Really enjoying getting to know the kids and the young adults that help out. We did some great Advent reflection and played some dangerous games involving tennis balls and Christmas carols.
Planted over 200 trees today (Monday) with Clackamas High School.. photos and video up soon on the SOLV blog. The sun was shining and everyone was in great spirits so it was a really great way to start the week. Students also removed a huge amount of obnoxious blackberry roots and went on a nature walk to the confluence of the Clackamas River and Rock Creek. Hoping for more sunshiny days and can’t believe there’s just 17 days until I’m back on the East Coast for Christmas!
Well, it was another great weekend in Hillsboro. To end a busy week with Green Teams, there was the SOLV banquet on Friday night. Miles and I drove to the native plant nursery in West Linn, Bosky Dell Natives, to pick up the centerpieces for the event.. in the UHaul. And I thought navigating a Campus Ministry minivan was difficult.. psshhh. We picked up the centerpieces, 42 in all, and some native trees and plants for the stage. Lori, the owner of Bosky Dell, was not there but she had pulled out no less than 50 trees for us to pick from; she’s fantastic and very enthusiastic. Miles and I trucked the plants into Portland and brought them to the Portland Art Museum, the venue for the benefit. Very swanky. We were in a beautiful ballroom for the event, expecting about 400 guests to honor several SOLV supporters and friends with citizenship and lifetime awards for their loyalty and passion to SOLV and its overall mission.
After dropping off the plants, Miles and I were able to wander around Portland for the afternoon before the banquet. I’m stoked to get back to the museum and explore their collections; free on the fourth Friday of the month! (If there’s a free deal, a JV knows to sniff it out.) We wandered into Pioneer Square and found a crowd gathered there. The trucks with the Christmas tree for the city of Portland had just rolled in and they were in the process of hoisting up an enormous Douglas fir for the holiday season! Miles and I sat on the steps amongst toddlers, moms and young hipsters to watch the giant evergreen be installed. We met up with a Portland JV, our friend Sean, and caught up with him on his break from work. Before we knew it, it was time to get back to the museum to help with set-up and the banquet. The generosity of supporters was really exciting; I think it had something to do with my photos being included on the slideshow. Either that, or all of the amazing award recipients and their SOLV stories! It was a long night of local wines, local food and getting all dolled up; we had a great time.
Up and at ‘em early the next morning for our final Salmon Toss of the season! Miles and I trekked to West Linn to meet some high school Green Team’ers there and then we were off to Estacada to meet some Clackamas Green Team’ers and our friend Jeff from Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. With about 12 high schoolers, a few teachers and one of our elementary school Green Team’ers, we were able to toss about 600 salmon into the river; that’s over 1,500 pounds of fish! I was able to muster up the courage get into the truck and toss fish out of the totes; my elementary school friend even got into the truck with me to toss tails! While my shoes are STILL smelly, we had a great last toss and have thrown over 6,000 pounds of salmon into Oregon rivers and streams to restore nutrient flows with our Green Team students!
I joined Sean, Frank and Elena on a road trip to Multnomah Falls on Saturday afternoon; pictures don’t do it justice at ALL! The rest of the evening was spent at home, resting after an exhausting couple of days. I was able to get back to St. Matthew’s last night for Youth Ministry; I haven’t been able to make it in the past few weeks so it was nice to see some friendly faces again. Missing you all and loving the mail and surprises I’ve been receiving.. been wearing the scarf non-stop, Mare! Much love and many thanks to all of you for supporting me!
the beehive collective is rooted in rural eastern Maine and I came across one of their posters at our JVC fundraiser a few weeks ago. from their website:
“The Bees have spent 10 years developing an innovative and story-based education strategy that we share through a variety of interactive, image-based picture-lectures and graphic workshops. We believe that art is a tool for popular analysis, education and organizing- and that the complex and overwhelming issues that face our world can be broken down and understood in simple pictures.”
the poster i came across was an illustration of the destructive nature and true cost of coal and it was extraordinarily eye-opening. the beehive collective engages schools and other groups all across the country and crosses national borders to bring really important messages to people through their illustrations.
Remember when you were little and you would have to be in bed with your teeth brushed after dinner by 8:30? Those days seem to be back again for me with the combination of a full-time commitment to SOLV and daylight savings time; I feel like I’m back to being eight years old again as I tuck myself into bed seemingly earlier each night. But I am thankful each night for the tiredness I feel, as I know I have had the ability to work a full day. Speaking of which….
November has settled in over Oregon and as we have been hearing since we arrived in August, the rain is here to stay as well. Though it makes bike travel difficult, we are lucky enough to live quite close to a bus stop that can take us to the train in the mornings; the key is making it to the stop in time as the bus only comes once an hour. Miles and I have been driving quite a bit to our Green Team sites for SOLV, but there is something I really enjoy about taking public transportation. Especially during the month of November, which Fairfield’s LEAF is calling “No Impact November”, I am trying to be more conscious about my consumption and how I use resources. This is inspired by No Impact Man, a documentary/blog/book following the story of Colin Beavan in his attempt to live as lightly as possible on our Earth with its finite resources. While I probably won’t be able to create my own refrigerator out of a terra cotta pot, I am taking stock of where I consume too much and looking at alternative ways of using resources. Not using paper towels or air dryers in restrooms, eating dinner by candlelight, using reusable containers for toting food and drinks, playing board games instead of watching a movie…
Last week was a full week with Green Teams and keeping up with the SOLV blog. I worked with Deer Park students as I do every Tuesday; I am really enjoying the time I spend with them as they are the students I see most often and the smallest group I have. We finished planting our native plants and walked to another part of Willow Creek to look at the area we will be digging up for turtle nesting habitat. We’re really hoping to attract native turtles to the site as it is the ideal habitat for them; the students seem to be really excited about it. I continued my work at Willow Creek the next day with Rachel Carson Middle School students; I helped student sdig an area for turtle nesting habitat. Turtles need habitat relatively free of grasses and invasive species on a southward facing slope with easy access to the water; we will be digging three areas in total at Willow Creek. The students will be constructing these sites with our help and monitoring for turtle eggs as their nesting season approaches.
I worked with one of Miles’ schools on Thursday at Beaver Creek to do some more native planting of trees and shrubs. The teacher is actually an experienced kayaker and brought three kayaks with her to get students more acquainted with the site; we hope to use the kayaks to collect debris from the stream, do macroinvertebrate testing, willow staking and monitoring. Miles and I were able to get in the kayaks and paddle around the area after the students had left. I can’t tell you the last time I was in a kayak, (I’m not sure if I was ever in one, come to think of it…) but I became comfortable quickly and was really grateful for being so close to the water.
We were out at Rock Creek on Friday with Clackamas High School; though its a beautiful site, it has been a place for many transients in the Clackamas area. Between 10,000 and 12,000 people are homeless in Clackamas County and it is difficult for them to find services to fit their needs as many agencies are found in cities and few are found in suburban settings. At one site in Clackamas, there have been up to 50 homeless camps set up at a time and people just shuffle from one site to another.
The Rock Creek site provides a fantastic opportunity for invasive removal as the area is almost completely covered in Himalayan blackberry and in desperate need of native plants to stabilize streambanks and shade the waterway. Students were able to remove hundreds of pounds of blackberry and plant a great amount of native trees. Meghan led macroinvertebrate testing and students found a great number of mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies as well as coho salmon, steelhead trout and sculpin. One student found a rough skinned newt as she was removing blackberry and another found a salamander as he was planting a big leaf maple. By examining what bugs and organisms they found, students were able to determine how clean or polluted the waterway was. A great day of wildlife and for photographing it all; I felt like I worked for National Geographic. (A lot of the photos and video are up on the SOLV blog.) We continued the day with West Linn High School at another site and had our first brush with severe weather; it hailed as we were planting!
An exhausting but really productive week at work made relaxation time on the weekend much needed! My housemates and I returned to our Friday night ritual of buying pizza dough and making our own pizza; delicious. Christie also made mulled wine, which made me think of the fall months in Paris and Prague during my junior year, where mulled wine was the holiday drink of choice. On Saturday morning, Elena, Sean and I attended a training for the SOS Shelter; a homeless shelter sponsored by several area churches for men, women and children in the coldest winter months. I hope to get involved as an overnight host or an evening host, helping with dinner and evening activities. Saturday evening was spent with my housemates in Portland, celebrating Chris’ acceptance into Stonybrook Medical School. We stopped in at Rogue Ales for some fantastic Portland beer (I sampled the Northwestern Ale, inspired by Sig Hansen of the Deadliest Catch) and then made our way to a McMenamin’s, ending our night at the Morris JVC house. Sunday was a day of rest, culminating in a discussion of spirituality and God’s will for us in our lives by some of our JV support people.
I have missed writing as I have been so busy updating the SOLV blog and I hope this gives you some good insight into what I’m up to out here in Oregon. I heard on the radio that mountainous areas of Oregon should be expecting 6-12 inches of snow this week and ski resorts could see as much as 18 inches of snow. Needless to say, I had a nightmare a few nights ago that we couldn’t plant trees because it had snowed. Here’s to happy dreams and sunny skies!
i drink coffee now. weird. perhaps it has to do with having a real 9 to 5 (ish) job and commuting and looking at a computer screen? never thought i would see the day! don’t worry though.. i drink out of a reusable mug and try to buy local/fair trade =]
green team/solv has been going really well. the blog has BLOWN up and is becoming really popular; its a great way for me to share with a larger community the work we do with students, the most important work in my opinion. its amazing to hear students who have worked with us before to tell other students on the work site things they have learned and done with us in the past. many of the students we work with choose to be in the classes that work on site with us, including our newest addition of elementary schoolers!
i am so excited to be working with our first elementary school; they are 28 first through sixth graders who are in an after-school “green team” club and i will work with them once a month. we met them all for the first time this past friday and they were the absolute best; so enthusiastic and ready to plant! they planted over 300 willow stakes and didn’t mind getting dirty.. my kind of kids!
i am also working on starting a landowner e-newsletter for solv to distribute to all of our landowners and site partners, to update them all on whats happening at all of our sites. it will include information on native and invasive species, links to resources and SOLV events. it includes quite a bit of work as we are trying to get all the addresses together to send the newsletter but i’ve really enjoyed writing it and will send one out monthly.
really been enjoying the fall leaves here, i was worried we wouldn’t see too many as there are so many evergreens here but i have created quite a collection. i’m hoping to create some sort of art out of them.. we’ll see what i can come up with. i hope to make it to scrap more often (went this weekend and was in heaven!) to create some more art projects out of recycled materials. its a phenomenal collection of a store that just has all sorts of odds and ends for creating new things. love it.
also went to portland this past weekend for a halloween party with other JV’s in the area; it was pun-themed and of course my costume was planned last minute. we had a great time and it was so great to see faces we hadn’t seen since orientation. one of my absolute favorite costumes was my friend sean who dressed as kevin mcallister of home alone and brought props with him in his backpack.. i proceeded to steal them all and re-enact scenes from the movie all night. figures.
making falafel again tomorrow night. yum. reading animal, vegetable, miracle right now by barbara kingsolver and its really making me look at my food choices yet again and consider how important “whole” foods are to our bodies and earth. a fantastic read and it has greaaaaat recipes!!
love from the doug fir state!
what a full weekend! elena, sean and i went to roloff farms on friday to check out the great pumpkin farm and see what all the fuss was about. we had a good time goofing around and taking pictures; people came from a LONG way away and we travelled just 7 miles. (well.. plus 3,000 from new jersey, but who’s counting?)
this weekend was our first JVC retreat in molalla, oregon and it was great to see all of the other JV’s from the cascade region (seattle, tacoma, portland, etc) since we hadn’t seen many of them since orientation. it was really great to really unplug since there was no phone service there and we had a fantastic time catching up and enjoying the outdoors. we focused on community for this retreat and the main theme was a personality test called an enneagram. we had a wonderful leader for our retreat named sister kathy and it was amazing to sit down with her one on one and talk about my personal qualities and traits and how to best handle them in regards to myself as well as others. the enneagram is a personality test at its most basic level and it scores your answers and gives you a number between one and nine that you might identify most closely with. while it leaves room for interpretation, it was interesting to see what my housemates thought about it and how we can all relate to each other having a bit more insight into each others’ personalities.
it was my housemate christie’s birthday was this weekend and we surprised her (though i’m sure we weren’t as sneaky as we could have been) with a cake and some little gifts as well as a photo book of all of us and our adventures thus far. another really enjoyable part of the retreat was that each community of JV’s was in charge of a meal during the weekend; there were some fantastic and creative meals on such tight budgets! we also had a coffeehouse on sunday night and each community did a short “commercial” for a day in the life of their community. the skits were hilarious and i loved seeing what other communities have been up to.
SOLV has been great; the Green Team blog is going really well and receiving great feedback! working on some other new things and we are starting to really see that Oregon rain when we’re out planting! youth ministry nights at St Matthews have been going really well and i’ll be training to be a lector there next week. i’ll be headed to a sufjan stevens concert this weekend as well as a halloween party at one of the portland JV houses… never a dull moment!
life has certainly been busy in hillsboro these days! green team is going really well and all of the schools are visiting their sites and making lots of great progress. i was at a SOLV tree planting last weekend in Portland and with about 12 volunteers, we planted approximately 200 trees, just in time for global climate action day! with our three SOLV events last weekend, we planted hundreds of trees to restore sites as well as curb carbon emissions.. makes me feel a bit better about driving the SOLV truck around!
five of us hillsboro JV’s visited a yurt last sunday to participate in some contemplative meditation and prayer. sean’s friend kristen from work knows someone who owns 72 acres outside of forest grove, or and has a yurt (permanent tent-like structure often used for camping) used for meditation. it was amazing to attempt to quiet our minds for an hour and really enter into a quieted place and meditate on what we so often neglect to think about. after the yurt, we went back to kristen’s home and made brunch. we had a great time exploring her home, photos and knick-knacks and had some fantastic conversation.
had at least one green team school every day this week and we were able to remove lots of blackberry and plant an amazing number of native plants like rose, willow and oregon grape. we have been taking a great number of photos and video interviews that we hope to put on our new blog. a few of us attended a bird conference on friday at the oregon zoo and learned some really valuable pieces of information about bird habitats that we can apply to our restoration work. who would’ve ever thought i’d attend an all day workshop about birds native to oregon?
sean’s parents visited this weekend and they were generous enough to take us all out to dinner on friday night and after a longgg night of travel and getting on the wrong busses, we all made it to dinner at the kennedy school, a mcmenamin’s restaurant that is converted from an old school. they have a great number of different rooms; the boiler room is a bar and the gym is often used for large events. they even have a movie theatre.. score.
saturday morning was a drive to sandy river for the SOLV/Oregon Dept Fish and Wildlife salmon toss. we met up with an ODFW fish biologist with our SOLV executive director and her kids as well as some Valley Catholic students to toss the carcasses of dead hatchery salmon into the Sandy River to restore nutrient levels for wild salmon migrating back up the river to spawn. it was quite a messy affair but fun was had by all and i even tossed two salmon! i took the role of photographer/videographer for the day but i found the courage within myself to join in the tossing!
elena, christie, ted and i attended harvest stomp last night, the JVC NW fundraiser, in portland. we had a great time chatting with former JV’s and board members and square dancing.. i volunteered to help with the raffle and many of you know what happens when i get a microphone. needless to say, i had a great time calling out numbers and giving prizes to all those wonderful people that support us.. of course, i got some laughs from the crowd =]
had a great time this weekend in hood river, oregon.. a friend of my housemate miles has a home there and was gracious enough to let us stay the weekend. we had a great view of surrounding mountains and had a fabulous time exploring the natural beauty of the town and the areas nearby. we ventured up to a hiking trail on saturday and got sidetracked when we stumbled upon an open field.. we ended up playing a great game of touch football in the sun for about an hour. i’ve been out of practice and certainly would not make the cut for the leuven lions, my brother’s football team he is currently playing for in belgium.. perhaps with practice.. we continued on through the day visiting some great antique shops (where i purchased canvasses for a dollar!) and i stumbled upon some great old family photos in a shoebox from the 1930s and 1950s. amazing to see how styles change and made me wonder where all of the photos had come from. christie, elena and i enjoyed some snacks when we got home that the boys made; homemade hummus and salsa with tomatoes from the homeplate garden! we enjoyed a nice relaxing afternoon followed by a “girls night” at the hopsfest that we stumbled upon in hood river. had some fantastic local beers and really enjoyed the vibe of the crowd there.. lots of flannel, facial hair and laughter. no solo cups there.. we received plastic mugs to have our beer samples in. sunday was another great day as we ventured to lost lake, a part of the mt. hood national forest and did a nice walk around the gorgeous lake. we shared one of our spirituality sessions on the dock making music with found objects.. i played an old peanut butter jar filled with pebbles. suffice it to say, i’ll be touring internationally soon enough… a great weekend away was topped off by my first night volunteering with st. matthew’s (the local parish in hillsboro) youth ministry. i flashed back to my nights spent with youth ministry in high school and really enjoyed being a young adult helping out and getting to know the kids, many of whom i met in my SOLV green team classrooms!
last week was a VERY busy week of watershed presentations and i finished up all six schools, quite a relief! i really came to be comfortable with the presentation and many of the kids are quite engaged and knowledgeable about native and invasive plants in their communities.
thursday night was the SOLV volunteer appreciation event and though it was at the end of a very long day after being out in the field planting willow stakes with SEVEN high school science classes and meant a trek into portland, we had a great time meeting all of the key volunteers that make SOLV events really happen and sustain themselves.
the week was finished off with our presentation to an elementary school “eco-club” composed of first through sixth graders interested in the environment. really looking forward to working with them and partnering with a local high school to work with them as well.
had another great day today being out with several students from a local high school/middle school who are in transition. we removed blackberry and the kids were such hard workers and asking great questions, it was easy to tell these kids could work hard in the right environment. just finished out the day with doing some door to door recruiting for a community tree planting event in the st. john’s section of portland; what a great community of activists, artists and human rights advocates! really reminds me of the bigger picture and know that i’m in the right place!